Blackboard Jungle…Stand And Deliver…Dangerous Minds…Lean on Me…the list of Hollywood takes on urban education is long. Now, add to that list, Coach Carter, the new Samuel Jackson movie about California high school basketball coach Ken Carter who benched his entire team because of the failing grades of some players.
It’s a good story, and a good sports movie, but what’s really Eduwonky is that it might be the first post-NCLB movie. For instance, in one scene the principal and Coach Carter get into a debate about graduation rates. The abysmal graduation rates for urban students and even worse college-going rates become a theme in the movie. It’s a data-driven movie! And of course, low expectations for minority kids in the cities is a recurring theme as well.
And, in a scene the teachers’ unions will simply hate, the teachers’ contract comes in for a beating. During a community meeting about whether to overrule the coach and resume basketball even though some players are not making grades a teacher stands up and announces that working with the basketball coach to improve student grades is not something he’s required to do under the collective bargaining contract. He’s not portrayed sympathetically. It’s a rough hit and the audience at the theater where Eduwonk saw the movie (in a county that went heavy for Kerry in November) vocally reacted negatively (interestingly, especially the kids in the audience). Might be time to call Kamber again!
Sure, the events that inspired Coach Carter predate NCLB. But the attitudes the movie shows are pure NCLB.
Perhaps things are changing? Back when Alan Bersin was being considered for the coveted Valenti job at the Motion Picture Association of America one excited reporter emailed Eduwonk saying, “Yes! I can finally pitch my movie about teachers’ union work rules and the escalating costs of health benefits in the public sector!”
Who knows, maybe not so far off the mark? Eduwonk’s got a screenplay in the works about political appointees who payoff media types for favorable coverage. It’s probably too unbelievable and farfetched though.